Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Aldermen reject RMTD funding cut

By Jim Hagerty

CITY HALL — Rockford aldermen on Tuesday voted down a financial task force recommendation to slash what the city pays the Rockford Mass Transit District by 20 percent.

The vote was 9-5 against cutting $300,000 from the $1.5 million Rockford pays the RMTD. The citizen-led task force recommended the reduction as part of its effort to help city leaders close a projected $10.5 million spending hole.

Aldermen John Beck, R-12; Frank Beach, R-10; Joe Chiarelli R-14; Kevin Frost, R-4; and Tim Durkee, R-1; voted for cutback. Those opposed were Natavias Ervins, D-6; Venita Hervey, D-5; Karen Hoffman, D-8; Jonathan Logemann, D-2; Linda McNeely, D-13; William Rose, D-9; Ann Thompson-Kelly, D-7; Chad Tuneberg, R-3; and Tuffy Quinonez, D-11.

“A lot of my constituents utilize (the bus service) to get to work every day and for shopping, and to go to the doctor,” Thompson-Kelly said. “They have no other means of transportation.”

Thompson-Kelly said she may consider supporting incremental cuts but said an immediate 20-percent decrease would be “devastating.”

Hervey, who previously served on the RMTD board, noted that while it’s mostly funded by state and federal dollars, the district would be penalized if the city reduces its assistance.

“If we start to remove the subsidy we are required to provide (for the mass transit district) to get the subsidy from the state and federal government, that’s going to be a deduction for RMTD. Playing around with that is just dangerous. I am asking that we look at another schematic. And, I don’t want to do anything (now) because I want to see them expand their routes.”

Hervey said she’d like to see more routes like ones to Belvidere, which the City of Belvidere funds. The added routes, she said, made it possible for those without reliable transportation to accept high-paying jobs at places like Chrysler.

Based on figures from the RMTD, the money it receives from Springfield is a 35-percent match of local funds. That means if the city removed $300,000 for its outlay, the state would hold back $525,000, resulting in a more than 5-percent cut to the district’s budget. The RMTD generates about $16.7 million in revenue from fares, advertising and government subsidies.

Frost said that although the city is compelled to subsidize RMTD so it can utilize other dollars, it is not bound to do so at the tune of $1.5 million.

“It’s a very hard decision to make,” Frost said. “All of these proposals involve very hard decisions, and I don’t want anyone to think, whether they’re from RMTD or otherwise, that these considerations are being taken lightly. But, at the end of the day, I have no say in how the state government or federal government funds the mass transit district. I only have the ability, as we all do, to vote on how this funding affects the city of Rockford.” R.

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